Microwave cold spots can make foods cool faster than those from pans

THE WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post Food staff and Shauna Henley, a family and consumer sciences educator at the University of Maryland Extension who has a PhD in biology with a focus on consumer food safety issues, recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: Do liquids heated in a microwave cool faster than those heated in a pan?

A: Liquids in a microwave could potentially cool faster than liquids heated in a pan. Some of the reasons why liquids heated in a microwave cool faster, is that we know microwaves will have cold spots. So liquids heated in a microwave may have cold spots that allow for the temperature to drop faster than if heated on the stove. And you are most likely heating liquid on a stove with a metal sauce pot that can retain heat much better than heating a liquid in a microwave in a plastic or glass container. – Shauna Henley

Q: I made a big batch of homemade beans last night. Since the beans were too warm, I went to bed and asked my husband to put them in the fridge when they were cool enough. He drained all of the water off the beans. I was really mad, but realised I didn’t tell him to keep the water. Can I still freeze the beans? Can I just add regular water back? Thanks.

A: Oh, no! So sad that you lost what I call the liquid gold, which is such a perfect medium for storing beans, in fridge or freezer. But you can absolutely still freeze the beans – just cover them with water, yes. Also, not sure what you were planning, but I like to freeze them in zip-top bags so they’re quick to thaw. – Joe Yonan

Q: Hi! My son’s favourite bread (a King Arthur rye bread recipe) calls for quarter cup of corn syrup. Should I be worrying about using that much corn syrup regularly? Is corn syrup the same as high-fructose corn syrup? Should/can I substitute sugar or honey?

A: Corn syrup you buy in stores is not the same as high-fructose corn syrup. Using corn syrup is no worse than using sugar or honey. I trust KA recipes, as they are tested and calibrated thoroughly. Corn syrup is an invert sugar, which means that it prevents sugar crystals from forming. I haven’t seen the exact recipe, but I would not rush to swap in anything yet. Honey is an acidic (volatile) ingredient in baking, whereas corn syrup is neutral. – Olga Massov